BYUH readies second phase of expansion plans for city

Dr. Steven Wheelwright
Dr. Steven Wheelwright
Dawn Wasson
Dawn Wasson

HAUULA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some Native Hawaiian families in Laie aired their concerns about the latest round of expansion plans at Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

BYUH officials unveiled those plans before a standing-room-only crowd at a meeting of the Koolauloa Neighborhood Board.

The university has already started the first phase of the project, which includes seven new dormitories, two apartment buildings for married students, and a multi-use building. Construction on phase one is scheduled for completion in 2014.

BYUH is now going ahead with its plans for the second phase, which it said is necessary to keep the institution economy viable, first by replacing older buildings that are more than 50 years old. "Second is to meet increasing student demand, both here in Hawaii as well as across the Pacific, and third is to assist the community itself in becoming for economically viable by providing additional jobs," said Dr. Steven Wheelwright, BYUH president.

When all the construction is done, the university says it will have room for 3,700 students, about a thousand more than current enrollment. But while the project has its supporters, there are also those who are concerned with possible problems, including flooding. BYUH officials said that would be addressed as part of construction.

There were also some heated exchanges about kuleana lands around the campus, which some Native Hawaiians said have been in their families for generations. Some of them claimed at the meeting that the university's plans have begun to encroach on those lands.

At least one of those residents wants the university to enter into an agreement with them. "If anything happens to any kuleana lands, that you will not take our lands, and that you will not allow flooding, and that you will not be part of the destruction of the Hawaiian culture, history and language," said Laie resident Dawn Wasson.

However, Kela Miller, another kuleana lands resident -- and neighborhood board member -- said, "BYU has not built on our kuleana property."

BYUH said it will submit the plans to the city on September 28. Those plans still have to go through several public hearings, which means neither side has had the last word.

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